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Parents turn to High Court

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A British man is using the European Human Rights Act to sue his local council and mobile phone operator Orange over the erection of a mast close to his childrens' bedroom.

David Lale, a company director from the Leeds area, has filled a High Court appeal objecting to a decision by planning authorities to allow the erection of a mast less than 15 feet away from his kid's bedroom and close to a local school. In the lawsuit, Lale argues that he was not given a fair and proper hearing by planning authorities nor the opportunity to raise health concerns over the masts. This, it is argued, breaks Article six of the Human Rights Act.

Lale's children, aged six and eight, have also written to Hans Snook, the departing Orange chairman, asking him to intervene personally in order to get the mast, which is around the size of a lamppost placed elsewhere. They hoped Snook, who is leaving Orange to pursue a career in alternative health, might be moved by their appeal but so far they have received no reply.

The childrens' mother, Alison Lale, told The Register that it was worth risking possible legal costs of £50,000 in order to defend the health of her family. She is appealing for funds to fight the case.

"I'm concerned the health risks have not been thoroughly explored and I don't feel my family should be placed so close to such huge potential risks," she said. "If we lose our fight we'll have no alternative but to move house."

A political pressure group called Mast Action UK, which is supported by MP Glenda Jackson, is also planning to use the Human Rights Act to object against particular mobile phone masts.

In order to build 3G phone network mobile phone companies may need to build an additional 30 000 masts throughout Britain.

A spokeswoman for the Mast Action said that it was not against the expansion of mobile phone networks but wanted masts located away from people wherever possible, which she admitted is easier to achieve in rural areas. She suggested operators were placing masts in the centre of villages because this is more cost-effective.

"We want to see the sensible siting of masts," she said. "Current planning procedure does not adequately take into account health and environmental concerns local people might have. We'd also like to have more consultation."

Although masts must comply with safety guidelines on thermal heating, Mast Action is concerned there is not enough evidence to decide whether or not masts might be linked to tumours, effects on the immune system or behavioural changes in children.

Simon Davis at Orange said a planning inspector had given the mobile operator the right to use the mast close to the Lale's house but it was "putting the site on hold" and not putting it live. He admitted that there was concern about the health risks from mobile phone technology but said "on the balance of evidence we don't feel we're putting the health of the general public at risk". ®

Related stories:
We've got brain cancer and we want your money
DTI and Which? at odds over phone safety
My head hurts and I want $800 million
Finally the truth! Mobiles only kill children
WHO doctors clear mobile phones of cancer risk
Q: Who will pay for 3G networks?

External sites:
Mast Action web site

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